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Posts Tagged ‘Ephesians 6:12’

Painted by Hans Baldung Grien
16th Century

In a previous post, I spent some time thinking about the idea of choices and boundaries for human in the Garden of Eden (a decidedly perfect environment) and yet, within that garden stood a tree with forbidden fruit. Human had to choose whether to honor God’s boundary (“do not eat”) or not. Now, it appears another kind of choice was there as well, whether or not to believe the “crafty serpent.”

Genesis 3:1aNow the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman . . .

Another thing occurred to me today. Why are so few people concerned with the concept of a serpent that could a) talk and b) interact with human? Some might reason that this was possible because it was really Satan in the guise of a serpent, but still, a talking critter is talking critter. And apparently, human (Adam or Eve) was not particularly surprised by this talking faculty either. Is it possible then that other animals or creatures in the Garden could communicate? I know, that sounds fantastic. (Is that any more fantastic than the idea of a Garden with only two people who named all the animals and walked around naked?) After all, the Garden is not supposed to be Dr. Doolittle’s domain. And yet, isn’t it fun to consider? Perhaps this ability to communicate with other species was lost to us in the “fall.” In some ways, it makes perfect sense that we make up so many stories about talking animals in our children’s stories, fairy tales, and movies. If only, we think, if only my dog could tell me what he really wants. If only my cat would explain why she is so angry with me. And so on.

A few years ago, Carolyn Parkhurst wrote a novel called The Dogs of Babel, in which a man’s wife dies after falling from a tree and the only witness was their dog. The man, a linguistics professor, is so embroiled in grief that his only hope for recovery is to get the truth about his wife’s death from the dog . . .  by teaching him how to talk. To me, that story captured the longing of inter-species relationships.

But, enough about talking animals. What I really wanted to investigate was the logic of the serpent for challenging humans. I believe he really wanted to undermine God’s authority and the best way to do that was by usurping the human role in Eden. The serpent, as a creature of the Garden, had been placed under the authority of human (see Genesis 1:28) just like all the other animals and creatures. To me, this is the reason the serpent was so crafty. He had a bone to pick with Creator and for this reason, he tricked humans, those most beloved of God. Otherwise, why bother?

This breakdown of the chain of command works in today’s world too. What better way to break things up than to hit the “middle manager.” In this way, the organization (or the church) suffers both up and down the ladder. Those below the middle manager begin to distrust that person’s reliability while the administrator above is seen as a poor leader, unworthy of respect. By encouraging human Adam and human Eve to break the boundaries of the Creator, the serpent broke himself free as well. The serpent’s goal was and still is bigger than human.

Evil has an agenda that is beyond mere “search and destroy” missions of human beings. Ephesians 6:12 says “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Same for them.

What is my role then today? See the big picture. Believe in the boundaries of God. Believe in the reality of a secret agenda of evil. Trust the sovereignty of God.

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Of course, this “war in heaven” is raged all the time. Despite the various views of Bible scholars, both Old Testament and New, I cannot eschew my commitment to timelessness to all things heavenly and Godly. And how do I know this? Just look around.

Revelation 12:7-8, 9b
Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. . . He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

If the effects of this war in heaven is the hurling of evil forces to earth, then we have had no respite from it. Throughout the ages, earth and human have experienced nothing but travail, fighting against one another for one stupid reason after another.

We have always longed for things we could not have. This is the mark of evil.

“They [Michael and his angels] triumphed over him [the dragon and his angels]
by the blood of the Lamb [the Christ]
and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
as to shrink from death. [Revelation 12:11]

This is the life of paradox: taking the “strength and power” of the Christ, the lamb, the peace that passes understanding, and doing battle against evil. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” [Ephesians 6:12]

Oh, if I could just get this in my head and heart and mind and not struggle so much with traditional strength, with my own determination, and my own flappings.

Gandhi got it. Martin Luther King got it. Mother Teresa got it. What about you and me?

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There are two insights here: one, the implication here is that mediums and such have power otherwise, it wouldn’t matter and two, looking for direction from them is a type of spiritual adultery.

Leviticus 19:31
‘Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God.

I have always held a healthy respect for people who are gifted with other-worldly capabilities and communications. Of course, there are charlatans as well, but I do believe there are legitimate seers and mediums. To throw the baby out with the bathwater and say they don’t exist is foolish. There is a spirit realm and it’s not just populated with angels and cupids. There are forces outside our 3-D world and they are referenced in the Bible a great deal [See Ephesians 6:12].

The point is that we are discouraged from using these people to communicate with that world. I don’t know why, really. This is a trust issue. I think of it as the same warnings that parents give to children, to stay away from the burners of the stove. It’s a force we may not understand fully and it’s better to stay away.

I was thinking that part of the problem might be the limitations of the message. Perhaps a medium would give direction based on circumstances in that moment and the listener takes it to heart and makes decisions and plans based on that advice. We may move in this one direction based on the revelations of a spiritist, but then miss out on a more creative plan that God may have.

It’s a matter of settling in and trusting the Holy Spirit to direct our lives. That is rarely on our time schedule. And so often, we become discouraged or impatient (like Saul and the witch of Endor – see I Samuel 28) and look for the easy answers, the quick result.

Lastly, is the issue of spiritual adultery. God promises to take care of us. It’s a covenant relationship just like marriage. If we seek direction from other sources, we are showing our distrust and we are breaking our vow to remain faithful to the One God.

I’m not so rigid to believe that reading books about fantasy or fairy tales are dangerous. I think that’s going overboard. I also don’t believe lighthearted play with a ouija board or tarot cards is going to mar a person for life. The danger is in the authority we give to these people and practices. As soon as we seriously engage in them, we are, indeed, playing with fire.

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It’s so much easier to speak of the spirit world in different contexts, fantasy for instance. In those circles, it’s the norm to speak of spirits, magic, miracles, powers, spiritual enemies and spiritual good guys. But we have lost our ability in this age to speak of the Spirit World.

I John 4:4
You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

Despite the fact that numerous references are made to this spirit world in scripture; I am particularly thinking of Ephesians 6:12 as a good example, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms,” we hesitate to claim it as our own. It’s all woohoo stuff! And so, most folks shrug off spirit talk.

But I cannot. The epistle of I John speaks at length about spirit relationships: our own spirits, those of the “anti-christ” opposed to all Christ spirit, the spirits of the world, the spirits of believers, and the spirits of God followers. This is the unseen world and yet, more and more, I do believe it is the most important part of our existence.

We are multi-dimensional for a reason. And there are enough people, even in modern times, who have had significant experiences with Spirit that it seems foolish to disregard this aspect of our humanity, our spirituality, our essence.

I guess the big question is in the tension that arises when we refer to “good” and “evil” spirits. And I understand that hesitancy, but there is simply too much evidence to deny them. For me, the truth of evil places human depravity at the feet of its source: the realm within.

Do we really think that the battles we carry on in the flesh will change the spirit? Will our wars block the power of evil’s presence and influence? Will our gun laws prevent their distribution on the streets of our cities? Will our capture of kilos of cocaine prevent the fields of poppies from being grown again?

We are back to the single word that explains the Way of the Spirit realm: paradox. It’s not the very reasonable approaches to problems of our world that will change it, but the opposite. If not, if it’s all Pollyanna, then why did Jesus bother to say any of it? I know things are bad now, but things were bad then too: almost everyone was poor or under the iron fist of a dictator or slave owner, violence was the norm and so was hunger. There was no “upward mobility,” there was no middle class. Back then, it wasn’t just the 99% but 99.9% of the people who suffered under human indignity and loss.

They had good reason to look and wait for a revolution. Instead, Jesus proclaimed a victory for the interior life as the starting point for change. Do we follow? Do we believe?

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Want people to feel really uncomfortable; drop the words Satan or Devil around. Maybe it’s too much Halloween or sports teams or movies with vomit that looks like pea soup, but very few people want to talk about this evil aspect of our lives. He is truly “the one who must not be named.”

I Thessalonians 2:18
For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan blocked our way.
[NIV 2011]

Don’t get me wrong. I’m equally uncomfortable with the idea of a Devil. How powerful is this evil? Can this evil interpret my thoughts and actions? Can this evil slay me, trick me, seduce me? Apparently that is all true.

Ultimately, I know that I am also protected by the Presence of the Holy Spirit. In the same way that I am sure my relationship with God and Christ is through the presence of the Holy Spirit within, then doesn’t it make sense that the opposite force, in spirit, is also present?

But Mr. Mayhem (like the new Allstate commercial anti-spokesman) is still busy: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” [Ephesians 6:12]

All is not well with our world. Most of the evil that is perpetuated upon us is human to human: violence, torture, starvation, poison, destruction, or isolation, just to name a few. These have power in our lives. And they are fueled by Satan.

There are a lot of different ways to “do battle” against the Enemy. Some choose direct attack, railing and invoking and commanding that evil leave. Some destroy other humans in the name of destroying evil. Some clump all kinds of vessels together and assume all are tainted by the Dark One. Some are like ghost hunters or McCarthyites in their search.

In this brief reference to Satan, Paul identifies their circumstances as “blocked” and does not say that they participated in a huge effort to unblock. Instead, they worked within the confines of the circumstances and put emphasis on what God was doing and could do and would do.

God is still sovereign.

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